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J Comp Neurol. 1987 Jan 1;255(1):68-81.

Membrane area and dendritic structure in type-identified triceps surae alpha motoneurons.


The size and branching structure of the dendritic tree were studied in nine type-identified triceps surae alpha-motoneurons that were labeled intracellularly with horseradish peroxidase and reconstructed from serial sections in the light microscope. The average total membrane area (AN) for motoneurons of type S (slow-twitch) motor units was about 22% smaller than AN for cells of type F units (including both FF and FR motor unit types in this category) (480.1 X 10(3) microns 2 vs. 617.7 X 10(3) microns 2, respectively). Systematic correlations were found between stem dendrite diameter and three measures of dendritic size: dendrite membrane area, combined dendritic length, and number of terminations. All of these correlations were significantly different for the dendrites of F and S motoneurons. Power-function relations between stem diameter and dendritic membrane area were used to estimate AN for a sample of 79 type-identified motoneurons. Mean estimated AN values were significantly different for the F and S motoneuron groups, despite a large overlap in AN values between these groups. The branching structure of dendrites of F and S motoneurons also showed clear differences. Type S motoneuron dendrites showed less-profuse branching and a more-even radial distribution of branch points than found in type F cells. Examination of two forms of the "3/2 power rule" for the relation between the diameters of parent and daughter dendritic branches at branch points showed that the dendrites of type S motoneurons conform less well with the anatomical constraints necessary to represent binary branching trees as equivalent cylinders than do dendrites of type F cells. There was no systematic difference between F and S motoneuron dendrites in the degree of asymmetry of first-order daughter trees. The results overall indicate that the dendrites of F and S motoneuron groups are structurally different, giving rise to a systematic difference in AN between these groups. Such structural differences suggest that the F and S groups of alpha-motoneurons can be viewed as intrinsically distinct cell types and not just large vs. small variants of the same cell species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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